GRRM just spoiled "The Winds of Winter." In what some people are seeing as a huge unintentional reveal, George R. R. Martin has - in the minds of some readers - given away a massive plot point about the next member of the "Game of Thrones" books, which is coming out in 2014 (supposedly). In an interview with io9 during Comic-Con, in between various panels and actual crazy hijinx, George spilled the beans on certain massive spoilers. I will tell you what those spoilers are after I put up this GIGANTIC "DANCE WITH DRAGONS" AND "WINDS OF WINTER" SPOILER WARNING and also this compilation:
Alright, last chance to avoid possible mega "Winds of Winter" spoilers. Here we go. So in this big ol' interview, depending on who you ask and whether or not they know nothing, George R. R. Martin confirms that Jon Snow is not dead. In case you haven't been paying attention, maybe this story does have a happy ending. At the end of "Dance with Dragons," the Night's Watch quite reasonably turned on Lord Commander Jon Snow, who was in the middle of suggesting they violate eight thousand years of Night's Watch law and tradition to march south and save his daddy's ruined castle. They stabbed him repeatedly and his vision fades to black. It's unclear whether or not the fierce attack results in Snow's death.
So here's the "Winds of Winter" Jon Snow spoiler in GRRM's own words, via io9, a site on the Internet, in response to their question on how the story grew in the telling:
You introduce characters, and sometimes they take on a life of their own.
Some major characters -- yes, I always had plans, what Tyrion's arc was gonna be through this, what Arya's arc was gonna be through this, what Jon Snow's arc is gonna be. I knew what the principal deaths were gonna be, and when they were coming. That would be the closest thing.
Did you see it? Did you see the "Game of Thrones" spoiler that confirms that Jon Snow lives? It's all in that present tense phrasing: "what Jon Snow's arc is gonna be." Tough to have an arc when you're dead. Many commenters on the interview have interpreted it to mean exactly that: like Frodo before him, Jon Snow lives.
Not so fast, say I! Interpret it as a "Winds of Winter" spoiler if you like, but I'm not convinced. Martin could just as well have said "what Ned Stark's arc is gonna be," and that wouldn't mean Ned was coming back. It wouldn't mean anything. A character's story arc can still be spoken of in the present tense even when they are dead -- just as they can be spoken of in the past tense when alive, as GRRM does for Tyrion and Arya above. This means nothing, and if you think it means Jon Snow is definitely still alive, then you know nothing.
That being said, Jon Snow is definitely still alive. Now I'm moving out of possible "Winds of Winter" spoilers and into "Winds of Winter" speculationanalysis, but Jon Snow is not out of this story yet. This is the Song of Ice and Fire, and Jon and Bran are the Ice (Dany is Fire). And far too little of Jon's story has been told. He has yet to come into his own as Azor Ahai (cf. Melisandre's telling quote, "I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R'hllor shows me only Snow"). He has yet to become one of the three heads of the dragon, have his true parentage revealed. He has yet to warg his spirit into Ghost and be brought back from the dead in a new (or the same) body by Melisandre, and thusly be released from his Night's Watch oath (now his watch is ended). And if you think none of that will happen, well... I think you know what the phrase is.